Sunday, June 12, 2011

Oldest 18th century wine bottle report

We now have the second bottle and glass report by Robin Murdoch of Edinburgh, on the assemblage from our latest bastle house archaeology excavation.

This is at Smithwood Bastle [NS 959 093], in the Daer Valley, where we had earlier carried out a major landscape survey, with particular emphasis on Daer Reservoir and the adjoining forested areas. The excavation at Smithwood was one of a number carried out at sites under threat from farming or forestry operations or for research purposes.

The Smithwood glass assemblage is one of the two largest collections of early 18th century wine and medicine bottle glass to be excavated in Scotland, the other being from the neighbouring bastle house of Glenochar [NS 946 139]. A smaller assemblage of similar age and composition was recovered from the bastle at Wintercleuch [NS 990 114]. Taken together, these indicate a lifestyle hitherto unsuspected for a rural Scottish settlement of this period. Wine was being taken and copious amounts of tobacco consumed, as testified by the numerous pipe bowls recovered, and food was being prepared and served on rather fine Staffordshire slipware pottery. Evidently life on an upland farm in the south of Scotland was not as Spartan as one might have imagined.

Examples of Smithwood wine bottles. The larger bottle (left) has a capacity of 800ml, while the smaller contained 400ml. Although varying in shape, the larger bottles that could be measured had a similar capacity.

In the course of the current Tweed Project, another large assemblage of wine bottles, together with medicine bottles and window glass, was recovered by archaeology excavations at the settlement of Chapelgill in the remote valley of Cardon, some 6km SW of Broughton village. On the evidence of their necks and bases, these bottles range in date from the early 18th century to the early 19th century.

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